Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens, and head coach Joe Mazzulla were on the same page after a disappointing Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals: they weren’t going to run it back without making some sort of roster upgrade.
“We agreed not to bring back the exact same team again, but to be open to changing the mix and bringing in additional talent,” Grousbeck told the Boston Globe. “And the result of that so far this offseason has been Kristaps Porzingis coming in and really adding hopefully a lot to our lineup.”
Grousbeck reflected on the “missed opportunities” of the past two seasons, acknowledging the Warriors and the Heat were both good teams, but also noting the Celtics play was inconsistent. Coming up short of a championship in back-to-back years, despite such talented rosters, led leadership to consider making significant roster changes that came as a surprise to many.
“If we’d all agreed we should keep things the same that would have been fine,” Grousbeck. “But the idea of bringing in another talented big popped up early in the conversation, and we ended up executing on that idea.”
Grousbeck expressed significant excitement about the Porzingis acquisition, noting that he heard the Wizards big man had several other options but nonetheless chose to be a Celtic.
“I’m really impressed with his commitment to being part of a winning Celtics team,” Grousbeck said. “I met with him when he came up for the press conference and spent some real time with him, and he’s so happy to be here. He’s so ready to shine at this stage of his career. But he sees a team concept, not the KP show. He’s continually improved over his career, and he thinks this is his prime.”
When asked about Marcus Smart, Wyc said what he will miss most about is “his energy and his smile,” while also revealing he and his wife, Emelia, still plan on attending Smart’s upcoming wedding to longterm girlfriend Maisa Hallum: “That’s the way he and we want it.”
Grousbeck affirmed his commitment to Joe Mazzulla as head coach, noting that Stevens strongly recommended him for the job after Ime Udoka was suspended just days before training camp.
“Brad feels even more strongly about him now, and I agree,” Grousbeck said. “Joe handled that initial transition and eventually the entire season incredibly well. He’s got world-class intensity, drive and knowledge. He is fully committed to winning a championship with this group. It’s all he thinks about. … Every breath he takes is about making the Celtics better and doing a better job as a coach. He’s all-in.”
Udoka signed a 4-year, $28.5 million contract with the Rockets back in April, which Grousbeck declined to say much about. “I’m going to leave the Ime situation in the past. We parted ways, so I don’t have additional comment on it, except I don’t wish anybody any ill-will in the league. I obviously send out good vibes to everybody, and we’re moving forward.”
He also confirmed that while several other NBA owners (Michael Jordan of the Hornets, Marc Lasry of the Bucks) sold their shares this year, he has no interest in doing so. “I do this for love and for Celtic pride, not for any price tags. Period.”
He also does it in pursuit of an 18th championship. “My partners and I made it very clear to Brad that the entire goal is to win a championship, if not more than one.”
Grousbeck, who recently attended Jayson Tatum’s charity golf event in St. Louis and Jaylen Brown’s contract extension press conference at MIT which put pen to paper on the richest contract in NBA history. He affirmed the team continues to see the Jays as franchise cornerstones.
“They’re the best two people I could imagine building a team around,” Grousbeck said. “We’ve had them since the beginning. We’ve been very lucky to have them here for their whole careers, and we’re building the team around them.”